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André Previn

Born: 1929

Died: 2019

Nationality: American

Publisher: G. Schirmer

Photo © Lillian Birnbaum

Composer, conductor, and pianist André Previn left his native Germany in 1938 to live in Paris and subsequently to settle in Los Angeles in 1940. His early career orchestrating film scores at MGM led quickly to conducting engagements of symphonic repertoire and on to an international career as Music Director of orchestras in London, Los Angeles, Oslo, and Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, he concentrated increasingly on composition for the concert hall and opera. His own richly lyrical style underscores his love of the late Romantic and early twentieth-century masterpieces of which his interpretations as conductor are internationally renowned.

Previn’s first opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, which he set to a libretto based on Tennessee Williams’ play, had its premiere at the San Francisco Opera in 1998 with Renée Fleming in the role of Blanche DuBois. It continues to enjoy numerous performances worldwide. Previn’s 1998 recording of the work with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra won the Grand Prix du Disque. Houston Grand Opera premiered Previn’s second opera, Brief Encounter, in May 2009.

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, written for the London Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with playwright Tom Stoppard, remains popular everywhere. Music for Boston was premiered in 2012 at Tanglewood, and was commissioned to honour the festival’s 75th anniversary. Other highlights from his recent orchestral works include a Double Concerto for Violin and Violoncello written for Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson, premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 2014, and performed since by orchestras across North America and Europe. Previn continued to expand his orchestral lyricism with Can Spring Be Far Behind? which premiered at Eastern Music Festival in July of 2016. His highly anticipated Concerto for Orchestra will be premiered during the 2020/21 season in celebration of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra's centenary. 

Following the creation of several violin concertos and sonatas, Previn’s long-standing collaboration with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter continued with his Nonet for Two String Quartets and Contrabass, which premiered in 2015 as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Previn also wrote for Vladamir Ashkenazy, Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Janet Baker, Sylvia McNair, Lynn Harrell, and Barbara Bonney.

Throughout his seven-decade career, Previn performed with and composed for greats from classical, opera, jazz, and standards including Anne-Sophie Mutter, Leontyne Price, Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Oscar Peterson, Doris Day, and appeared on the Morecambe and Wise show. He conducted the world’s major orchestras both in concert and on recording, and frequently collaborated with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Vienna Philharmonic. He held chief artistic positions with the London Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2009 Previn was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra.

He won 4 Oscars and 13 nominations; 10 Grammy® Awards, 44 Nominations and the Grammy® Lifetime Achievement Award; was named honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II; and awarded the Austrian and German Cross of Merit, the Glenn Gould Prize, and the Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Award amongst countless additional accolades. In 1999, he was honoured as Musical America’s 'Musician of the Year'. His recordings have received several Grammy awards, including for his own Sonata for Violin, “Vineyard” performed by Gil Shaham, and Violin Concerto “Anne-Sophie” featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 2010 he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy.

André Previn's concert music is published by G. Schirmer, Inc. and Chester Music Ltd. 

— February 2018

Read Previn's obituary in The New York Times

Enjoy his artistry as a composer/conductor/pianist in this Spotify playlist by Gramophone Magazine:

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